The little town where she grew up, stood by the sea. Proving ever a vigilant force against the steady onslaught of spray and mystery. It was the ever all-knowing cliché that at the steepest point, upon where this match met, was where the girl would often find herself perched. Comfortable just to sit on the cliffs. To stare out past where the lighthouse’s torch left the boundaries and ventured out into the wilderness. Of which only lumbering barges knew the rough dips and plains of, and of which only the town’s fishing boats knew how to caress and bring to fruition from.
The girl kept her watch on the sea, both the lover and enemy of all who berthed and died there. She did not turn her back on the people, though she neither glanced at the sleeping thatched roofs nor spared a thought for the barkeeps burning oil deep into dawn. The tides would turn against them then and again, and therein lay decision only to the frightful winds’ prerogative. She could care less if a child her age drowned against the tidepools late on summer’s night or if the next day brought a beached whale with blubber enough to light, clean, and feed the town for the winter. Even so, it was only because the sea itself delighted her.
It was not unheard for the weathered people of the little town to come across a city slicking family, with a level headed business man stones set on planting mergers in the factory on the outskirts; where smoke billowed up and the smell of fish permeated the very weeds that grew on the dirt paths surrounding it. So much so, in fact, that no child no matter how curious might find its every hollow, hide away, and secrets as they do with everywhere else. These families almost always come with a proper lady, handkerchief standing attention by delicate nose as a little noble boy peeks out from the skirts layered at his mother’s ankles. It is then noted that the town has never accepted outside help, nor has it ever wanted for expansion, and that this is meticulously taught to the family as if to bullies in a homely classroom.
The girl, upon which I write this story, would have it in her mind that quite honestly, it never seemed as if the families that came and went ever had a single experience with anything homely. For that, she pitied them, and was, when they eventually left, glad of the fact. So it was that the little town remained untouched. Removed from society, set in its ways, perfectly content to go on untainted by time. Whichever way one is so inclined to spin it. And though the girl had always dreamed of leaving, in her heart she never thought better of anywhere but home.
In the daytime she would wake, wash up, and help her mother with laundry and lunch for father, insomuch that her graces kept good. Truth be told she was not a very responsive daughter, neither a perfect one nor a troublemaker. She was simply odd, from childhood to her young womanhood, a time still very much away. Quickly she would send the jam knife clattering to the floor, or drop a sudsy sponge to a muddy patch in her haste of running off. In the afternoon she would catch toads, create small worm-hole tears in her underdress, and unwittingly fashion a wreath of brambles for herself that her mother later unkindly yanked out with a wire brush. In the evening she would slam her way through the back door, eat dinner with her fingers, and take a luke warm bath tinted pink from rose water. At night, once her mother and father had tucked her in once each and were occupied by such inconsequential things as newspapers or gossip or the silence of the weary, she would steal away out the window. Ducking, sprinting, and collapsing to the soft grassy hill over the rocks. Not until a sudden face full of mist burst across her would she drink in the cool night air, staring at the stars before pronouncing herself at ease.
When she was smaller, perhaps a time before her memories sharpened to the cut of the town, her life was muddled up in the salt sprays and seagulls’ call over a little skiff on the sea. It was her father’s hobby, to take her shivering around the cliffs and to secret beaches. What he would do there, she never paid attention. “It’s a pleasure craft, Wren, we’re out here to drink in our freedom!” Then he’d laugh and swing her about and they’d dance along the surf. It was the only time she caught him smiling. Maybe that’s what kept her coming back to the ocean long after he’d stopped, and to the lonely light above it.
The keeper of the lighthouse being a portly old man of good faith, would take it upon himself to check in on her, though she never replied to his inquisitive statements towards her presence. For many years she was happy to repeat this routine. Straying from it only on a dare to explore factory grounds, or to visit a particularly old tree on the opposite side of the town with the few other girls in its occupancy. Eventually her school years became more earnest. Boys began to notice girls, as they are prone to. In such a small pool of children, almost everyone paired off multiple times before finding their fit. The girl, however, did not. She was too in love with the town itself, with the unbridled smile she gave the world, and the happiness the strain of her calves provided her. So four years continued to go on like this.
It was in the midst of her thirteenth year that everything changed, as is the way of ones’ thirteenth year. Though not drastically, rather as things do seem to change. In procession. It was a bitter March, cool winds off the water sending most trembling into their warm homes. The ground still barren, the fishing men and factory workers already under the tutelage of the day’s whistle.
“Wren,” called her mother from the front yard. “Wait just a minute, young lady!”
Wren, of course, had one foot on the road, her eyes set on the treeline in the not-so-far-off distance. She pouted. In her mind, she might have called her parental a shrew. Which did more to scare her than her mother’s actual stern-sounding words. She huffed a slightly unwary sigh, and turned. “But Ma!” Drawled out over her berry stained overalls and into stale spring air. Somehow she made the town still to listen. She had that power.
This dance had never been new, her mother was aware. If she asked anything, pressed any matter, her dear child would protest. For the sake of the game, or tradition. For this reason only, she had to continue her speech, witting of its outcome. “Your aunt is very ill,” lord grant the child pity for her kin and let her not deny this request, “your father and I have discussed it, and feel it best that you go visit her over the summer.”
Her mother’s prayers did nothing to appease the deityless heart of the young girl, however. As she planted her feet with a grim set to her jaw. “….But I shan’t go willingly,” she warned. And, feeling empty of the matter, was off into the maze of the town before another word could be said. Although it just so happens that, when the time came, the girl did leave without fuss. Whether it would make a difference or not was yet to see.
It was the middle of June when the small streetcar sent for her arrived, packing her neatly into a pleather clad backseat and shuffling her off into the countryside with a choked up splutter of smoke. To those who saw nothing but land, day after day, the world was simply flat, or patterned with different terrain. No sudden changes on one of the four horizons. No sudden sucking eddies, no fear of riptides or ocean focused storms. Certainly there were other worries, other dangers. Dull things in comparison, she would try to front to herself. Later she would extract such bravado to use as a mask when headed with those of the city. Even if, really, she never set foot in one.